Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Riding Diary: 30

Time: 1.5 hr

Bit: This is no longer a sub-category in my riding diaries (for now atleast) as you will see in a moment!

Ride: We've been having bit/head issues - anyone who has read my riding diaries knows that. Well, now Jingle is becoming an absolute pain to bridle, like attempting to walk on top of me and leave the premises when I bridle him. He used to be an absolute violent terror to bridle, and that has all but dissapeared since the spring, but now he's becoming a bit of a big, overgrown, annoying pest. It's been two weeks since I've had a lesson, last monday I rode in a ported bit with shanks we've been using, Jingle did well. Then I got hit by a tsunami otherwise known as my "early human burials, and emergence of symbolic behaviour" paper in african archaeology, and did not ride my boy until Friday. Friday I went out with some friends, I rode super briefly, let them fool around in his snaffle, and that was basically it.

Monday, Jingle was a terror. Head-throwing, including throwing backwards (watch my nose there ponyboy!), Head-shaking, prancing, not checking back. General disastor mess. My dentist had told me that after a month or two, I will know if Jingle will be more accepting of a bit, and if I wasn't sure - he would give me all the signs. Well, the damn horse has a very well-moving jaw now, after every ride I massage his jaw, TMJ and neck muscles, and we've attempted to under bit, normal bit, over bit, leverage bit, every-bit, well.... looks like my horse is telling me something, hey?

So, we are now attempting the Side Pull!

My trainer lent me her double rawhide noseband sidepull, she covers the noseband with vet wrap so it's a bit softer on their noses, and as she was putting it on him she said, "well... he has a nice forelock." and then, "either this is going to help, or it's going to be like riding around in a halter." I replied with perhaps Jingle and I will just enter "Best Mane" contests... at the walk.

So, the verdict?

Well... Jingle's headset was a lot better, way more relaxed and low. That is a very good thing!
Jingle was still doing his obstinant head-shake-mom don't make me do this-thing. Not surprising, attitude related, not bit/jaw related.

& then... my issue was the steering, Jingle wasn't exactly listening to my subtle steering ques...
During my lesson I almost ran into a girl who was halfway over a jump, also a child who was jogging her horse, very nicely and quietly on the rail, and a couple really pretty - hey, let's go over here! moments. Really embarassing. My trainer, of course, told me to stop that. (yes... I am intentionally trying to kill a child, yes... I love when I underestimate the time I have to move out of the way of an oncoming jumping warmblood. yes... I did infact intend to do a small circle, but here I am, circling half the arena and my horse could care less)
More embarassment. Life is good.

I guess, especially in the first steps of this whole new bitless business, over-steering is probably what is going to have to occur until Jingle figures out how this whole new contraption works. However, It's more me struggling with the concept than him, sigh. I'm sure the two of us will get used too it, but, as I was being flung around the arena by my horse I definitely had one of those.... siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiighhhhhhhhhh.... days that I often have when it comes to my horse, his pissy-pants moment, and all his jaw and mouth issues.

So; Side Pull? Well... I went home and feverishly researched bitless options (i've done this before... I love to google), and the side pull looks like the best option for us right now. Jingle seems more... physically relaxed... in it, I saw physically because mentally I think my horse has two elephants in his brain attacking eachother sometimes. So, that's a plus, so we shall continue with this route and see what doors open down the road.

For Next Time: I ordered a sidepull, but it wont come in the mail until Friday. No surprise that none of Calgary's tack shops carry them, and the one that does wont have any in stock for about a month. Secondly, the online options weren't too great. Why oh why dont the big clearance/cheap websites deliver free to Canada? So unfair.

I'll probably just ride him in his rawhide noseband rope halter tonight, and hope he doesn't murder me. Plan of attack for tonight - softening, steering, and stopping - the three big S's!


  1. Oh Louisa I wish I known, I have a side pull that I will never use! I much prefer a regular hackmore and that takes usually a couple weeks for them to get used to so don't give up, I imagine that will be the same. I was told when I first put on a hackmore I will hate it but my mare also had mouth issues and she took to it like a duck to water, everyone said that was very unusual, so I guess I am lucky.

    1. I was under the impression that a hackamore requires a bit more refinement with neck reining? Is that true, or can you direct rein in them also? Jingle isn't exactly "refined" at the moment. Honestly, Bosal, Hack, mechanical Hack, dr. cook, nurtural, they all confuse the hell out of me sometimes.

      I might just buy it off you! haha... every side pull I've looked at is god awful ugly and plain, I'm looking around for one that I can maybe custom myself :) (always about the bling) besides this one was like $30 from Frontier, cheaper than a headstall! haha

      Well... judging from how nice his headset was yesterday I'm really hoping he's like your mare too! wish us luck!

    2. I thought that too, but it really is a totally different feel for them they break at the poll in a different spot, the feel a lot softer (although they can run right through them) I started riding her with 2 hands and had to pull pretty far out to the side at first so she would know what I meant, but now I usually ride with one hand and she loves it so I dont think she want to mess it up :) I will send you a pic of my sidepull and if you want it you can have it, I am never gonna use it anyways and it just takes up space of something else I might want ;)

  2. I´m glad the side pull worked. I work with rescue horses and I use sidepull on almost all of them to make them relax. Good job!

    Regards Maria

  3. I'm glad the sidepull seems promising. A sidepull and a hackamore (with bosal and mecate NOT leverage/shanks) work in a similar fashion. When you start to ride in a hackamore or sidepull, you direct rein entirely. The key to both of them is like Crystal said, pull where you want the head to go, particularly at first. Early on you use your hands way out from your body and sometimes pretty far up the neck to help guide the nose and help the horse understand how to give to the pressure.

    The other absolutely crucial thing is never, ever drag. If you pull without releasing immediately afterwards, the horse will lean. As soon as your horse is leaning on a sidepull or hackamore, you have exactly zero control of the situation. If you really get in trouble repeated pops on one rein will get you out of it better than dragging on the reins.

    So you have to think about riding on a loose rein. As I heard one trainer put it, "Keep your reins loose enough you could toss your hat through the slack without it getting hung up." When you ask the horse for a change in direction or speed, take the slack out of the rein. If the horse does not respond, you then apply all the pressure you can muster for about half a second. Then drop the pressure back to nothing. If that didn't get the change you were looking for, you do it again only you pull even harder. But always always release the pressure entirely after half a second. If you have to pull more than four times, you're not putting enough pressure on to start with and should adjust to start with more sooner. Of course you also want to be careful you don't start with too much and flip your horse over backwards. :) But if you're consistent soon they will stop and bend before you have to pull at all.

    Have you ever heard of Martin Black? He starts a lot of his horses in the hackamore, and has some great books and videos about riding in the hackamore which would help you even if you stay in the sidepull. As he puts it, a hackamore is basically a bluff (the same is true of a sidepull), so it is critical to make sure the horse respects the tool properly, which means making your corrections effective but quick.

    When I first started riding in the hackamore it took about three rides before Steen was pushing through my hands and refusing to bend or stop. That was because I was pulling on him all the time, even though I thought I was releasing him. I took a video of myself to see what I was doing. It was a humbling reflection on how much more primitive my riding was than I thought. What I thought was a release was really just a decrease in pressure.

    I was talking to Martin Black at one of his clinics last weekend though, and he said, "A hackamore basically just shows you all the mistakes you made in the snaffle." And, I once heard Buck Brannaman say, "After a week in the hackamore you're going to want to chuck it out a window. But if you stick with it, it will make you a better rider. A hackamore will take you places a snaffle just can't go."

    But I would not recommend ever using a mechanical hackamore. At best it will teach your horse to brace and inhibit his ability to bend. At worst it could break his nose.

    Good luck! I know figuring out the differences in the gear can be super confusing but hang in there and you'll get it all sorted. Keep in mind it's totally fine to switch between riding in a sidepull or hackamore and riding in a bit. So you could do all your walking, bending, and refinement work in a sidepull or hackamore, then when you just want to relax, throw a bit on and hit the trails.